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New Lenox program offers tips on ‘CPR of mental health’

New Lenox resident Lynne Beeler said she understands how difficult it can be trying to help a loved one get out of a mental health crisis.

“It helps to know how to react,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do years ago. … My daughter took it upon herself to [seek help.] She was in her 20’s.”

The New Lenox Safe Communities Coalition partnered with Sertoma Centre last week to offer some advice on how to deal with situations involving mental illness during a class called Question, Persuade and Refer, an introduction to what organizers called the CPR of mental health.

Between lecture and role-playing, course instructors strived to keep the training interactive for participants.

Gia Washington, community development manager for Sertoma Centre, said it’s important for people to talk about mental health issues and suicide, despite the stigma associated with it.

“People don’t understand, but we don’t understand because we don’t talk about it,” she said.

A presentation during the program showed 47,173 Americans died by suicide in 2017, a statistic Washington said is startling.

“I have been doing QPR training since 2013, and the very first statistics I got was 38,000,” she said.

Washington said that while social media makes it seem the world is more connected, it’s a progress coming at a cost.

“That’s why we have to have the conversations, and that’s why we have to talk about it,” she said, referring to suicide and mental health issues. “That’s why we have to increase our awareness, so we are absolutely present for each other. That’s how we strengthen and build community.”

Like CPR, QPR is not meant to replace the work of medical or behavioral health professionals but help provide intervention to somebody in crisis.

Instructors spoke of how the class strives to increase public awareness of suicide and improve one’s ability to identify and refer those at risk for suicide.

There are a number of warnings signs to watch out for when someone is suspected of struggling.

During the program, various techniques were addressed, such as ncouraging active listening, asking questions and showing empathy.

New Lenox resident Brian Mejdrich said he felt compelled to drop in for the class.

“A friend committed suicide recently,” he said. “There were no signs.”

Mejdrich acknowledged that it can be difficult to identify when a person is struggling with mental health issues.

“Awareness is good for everyone,” he said.

Beeler said the issue of mental health hits close to home in more ways than one.

“I work at a therapeutic day school with high school students,” she said. “I hear about what they go through. They have a lot of pressure between home, school, and friends.”

Beerler said there’s a lot to takeaway from sitting in on the QPR course.

“We can tell the warning signs,” she said. “It’s fascinating. You learn a lot about people.”

The QPR class is free to the community and is held a couple times a year.


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